Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR review
The HX20EXR looks and feels uncannily like an SLR. It's just as heavy at 730g and its lens rings for zoom and focus give a much more tactile experience than other ultra-zoom cameras' levers, buttons and dials. It has dedicated buttons for ISO speed, metering mode, focus mode, autofocus area and white balance, arranged in a strip to the left of the 3in articulated screen. Changing settings simply involves holding one of these buttons and turning the command dial – a seriously quick and intuitive system.
There's a flash hotshoe, raw capture and even an on-screen digital spirit level. We're not so impressed by the use of four AA batteries, though, which are much more fiddly than a single Li-ion battery.
We're big fans of Fujifilm's EXR sensors, which use an unusual pixel layout that allows the camera to halve its resolution to reduce noise levels and boost the dynamic range of photos. Focus from the 30x zoom lens wasn't always sharp enough to do justice to the 16-megapixel sensor, and even when it did deliver the goods, details had a slightly blocky, pixelated appearance. However, switching to 8-megapixel mode gave better pixel-level sharpness, reduced noise levels, rescued clipped highlights and still captured enough detail for A4 prints. Overall, image quality was excellent but it couldn't quite match the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ48, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 or Canon PowerShot SX40 HS.
16-megapixel photos don't look particularly sharp when viewed up close - click to enlarge
Performance was a mixed bag. It didn't live up to its claimed 11fps burst speed, but 9fps for 16 shots at 8 megapixels is still pretty good. There are lots of other options that balance speed, resolution and number of shots. The four-second start-up time is less impressive, though. Worst of all, virtually all of the controls are inoperable while the camera is saving photos, which undermines the benefit of those quick-access buttons.
Switching to 8-megapixel mode gives much better pixel-level sharpness - even at the full zoom extension - and renders noise virtually imperceptible in bright conditions - click to enlarge
Video quality was disappointing, too. Details didn't live up to the 1080p resolution, autofocus was clumsy and spoiled the soundtrack, and the lack of stabilisation for videos made handheld telephoto clips unwatchable.
We loved the HS10 and, while the HS20EXR is only marginally better, its price has dropped significantly. Its ergonomics remain in a league of their own, but its zoom range, image quality and performance fail to stand out in today's company, and its video mode is disappointing.
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